Saturday, January 21, 2017

Family Worship: Selecting a Text

Let's say that you want to begin leading your family in consistent worship in the home. You recognize your responsibility to be the spiritual leader in the home. You want your children to know the Lord and His Word. You feel like church once a week is not a sufficient spiritual diet for your family. You are convinced that family worship should be a priority. Now what? Where do you begin? 

Perhaps you go online. You go to Amazon or and search something like "family devotions". What will you find? Options, hundreds of options, too many options. You also have to consider if this is from a reliable source. Is this a writer that you can trust and how much is this going to benefit your family? Is this just a collection of sentimental stories or will it actually help your family understand God's Word? 

I won't say there is necessarily anything wrong with using devotional materials written by others. But I will say that the best way to bring your children closer to the Lord and His Word, is to simply read them His Word. Read it to them. Read it aloud. Let them hear God speak. Why do I say this? Because as the Second Helvetic Confession states so clearly, "For God himself spoke to the fathers, prophets, apostles, and still speaks to us through the Holy Scriptures" (emphasis mine). This is simply a doctrinal conviction borne out of submission to Scripture. How does the Bible describe it's own effectiveness? 

"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

The Bible teaches. The Bible reproves and corrects. The Bible trains in righteousness. All the things you want to see happen in the life of your family are found in the Book. Take it up and read. 

This still leaves the question of what to read. You don't want to do the proverbial flip and dip where you let the Bible fall open where it may and read a couple of verses. How can you best serve your family through the reading of God's Word as a part of family worship? Here are five tips for selecting a text for family worship.

  1. Pick a translation that works for your family. Don't restrict your family to one translation necessarily. You may have a preferred translation for reading and study. Or maybe your church has a common translation for their pew Bible. Those are good, but pick something that is good for your family. If your children are older, go for a more literal translation like the ESV or NASB. If they are a little younger go for something like the NIV, NET, or HCSB. These are all good translations. Pick one that is good for your family. That said, set the bar high. Don't read them a children's Bible which is a paraphrase. Read them the actual words of God. They pick up more than you might think. 
  2. Start with narrative and work up to didactic. With kids it is good to spend the majority of your reading time in a narrative text. Pick something that tells a story. Something that has characters, a plot line, tension, and resolution. Go back to the beginning with the book of Genesis. Recount the great working of the Holy Spirit in the Acts of the Apostles. Or maybe take a desert tour in the book of Exodus. Start with narrative and you will hold your family's attention as they listen to the greatest story ever told; the story of God's redemptive work. As your kids grow older you can begin incorporating didactic texts; that is, texts that teach, books like the epistles. Having read through the historical accounts of God's redemptive work, they will be better suited to understand the theological implications and applications of that great redemption. 
  3. Alternate between Old  Testament and New Testament. Your goal is to expose your children to the breadth and depth of God's word. Read through a book in the Pentateuch. Then, read through one of the gospels. As you alternate between the two testaments, you maintain a healthy variety. At the same time, you also begin to show your family the vast panorama of Scripture. 
  4. Read a Psalm. Or two. After reading a chapter of narrative, end your reading with a psalm. Your kids might not grasp every poetic nuance. They might not identify with the voice of the psalmist. But they will begin to hear the glory of biblical praise to a wondrous God. You might have to read slowly and explain a few words, but it is worth it. 
  5. Read a proverb. Perhaps last night you read a psalm after your main narrative chapter. This evening, read a pithy wisdom statement from the book of Proverbs. That is all you need, one proverb, one verse. Then explain it to them. You can make a big impact in your children's lives by simply explaining in bite-size pieces how to skillfully live the godly life. 

Selecting a text is the first and foundational step to beginning family worship. The benefit of selecting Scripture is you can read, pray, and trust God to do His work in the hearts of your family. 

How about you? Do you have anything you have found helpful for selecting a text? Let me know in the comments. And come back next time as I discuss how to read.

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